It is so, so easy to get caught up in numbers and associate certain politicians with the fight against the coronavirus. But on The Sunday Project one of the most senior epidemiologists in the country, Mary-Louise McLaws, broke down in tears, expressing how grateful she is for the work of nurses and environmental cleaners who tackle the virus head-on, every single day.

McLaws is a professor at UNSW, an expert in hand hygiene, and an advisor to the World Health Organisation on COVID-19. When Lisa Wilkinson asked her who the “real heroes of this pandemic” are she didn’t even need a moment to think.

“I’ve educated and trained many nursers in epidemiology and infection control, I’ve seen them at work,” she said, holding back tears.

“They’re at the patients’ side for hours, they’re at risk… they’re amazing.”

From staffing respiratory clinics to treating patients in intensive care units, Australia’s 275,000-odd nurses are one of the most important lines of defense against the disease, and also among the country’s most at-risk workers.

“And it’s not only nurses,” McLaws added.

“Environmental cleaners – it’s a really dangerous job.

“They never get the honour that they should get, environmental cleaners put themselves at risk at well.”

Whenever your favorite cafe, bar or restaurant has a confirmed coronavirus case, it’s up to the environmental cleaners to make sure the whole premises is safe and sound to be used again in future. The same applies for schools, offices and apartment blocks, too.

Long before all this shit started, the World Health Organisation designated 2020 as the year of the nurse.

Perhaps it’s about time we acknowledge just how much they – and environmental cleaners – are putting on the line each and every day, just to keep us safe and healthy.

Image: Twitter / @theprojecttv